Arthur (Yen-Yu) Chen is a social entrepreneur and venture philanthropist. He works as the CEO of Kenyataa Light World- the start-up he founded in Kenya about four years ago, to identify best practices and develop business models that revolutionize the economics & daily tasks of improvised families in Africa and developing countries. Through technologically, organizationally and culturally cooperative innovations, he has led Kenyataa to crack the Solar LED industry’s consensus price standard, to reach the real “Bottom of the Pyramid”. In essence, Kenyataa has disproved the preconceived notion that the only way to elevate impoverished communities is to subsidize, not commercialize. In the next stage, Arthur plans to start a seed capital fund specializing in investments in early stage high growth technology startups targeting the markets of sub-Saharan Africa.
Arthur's life vision to help eradicate poverty kindled during college and grad-school. He comprehended that technical breakthroughs can both lead customers' behaviors and solve social problems, and then started seriously researching solar technology and global development issues. During his first job at TI, he began learning to lead and manage some of the principles that create platform-permanence and partnership sustainability.
In culmination, two factors focused him on Africa: First, Africa’s poverty and development barriers were the least-solved globally. Secondly, from a base of coursework and extensive self-study of both Western and Chinese philosophy, he plunged into learning African culture, and grew to profoundly appreciate its Ubuntu spirit: the reliance on community interaction to support each others' life progress. His subsequent years of experimentation, failure, reflection, revision and eventual empirical validation in collaborating with professionals of Africa, Greater China and America – reshaped both his personal and professional life toward appreciating holism. Together, these have catalyzed his life passion to serve the underserved through cooperative innovations that integrate the deepest but often masked strengths of Asia, the West, and developing countries themselves.
Arthur received his MS in Electrical Engineering from National Taiwan University and BS in Material Science from National ChiaoTung University. Also he is a professional Foreign Exchange Trader and an amateur Jazz sax and basketball player.
Given the situation that China has accumulated too much wealth in the past decade and now both the government of China and their local companies have decided to put more investments in other fast-glowing continents, it is clear that Africa, the last sizable area of untapped growth in the global economy, will become one of the destinations, likely the major one, of the out-flowing capital.
Thus, by leveraging this inevitable trend, we plan to nurture new entrepreneurs to target Africa and then help this long-forgotten continent become one of the global technology innovators. We will achieve this objective by combining capital with mentor networks both in the region and from Taiwan, China, and Silicon Valley via an accelerator program and a follow-on independent seed fund.
Below is an example of innovative business models we've developed to create sustainable profits and make a impact to Africa.
Our research showed approximately 80% of impoverished Kenyan families could not afford US$10-30, the previous threshold to obtain solar lighting. On the other hand, more than 95% could afford the US$3 to pay for our product. Our "US$3 Loan to Own" Solar LED program loans the poor family a functional but minimal Solar LED lantern. The customer pays a US$3 membership fee. This $3 is enough to cover Kenyataa's all costs for producing, marketing, and shipping the loaner lantern, thus reducing our business risk. Our loaner lantern enables a typical impoverished family to save 10%~25% of their consumer expenditures, by ceasing to buy kerosene for lamps. The family then pays part of their weekly fuel savings to us through Kenya's M-Pesa, the world’s leading cellphone-based money transfer and microfinancing service, for a better lighting system. After weeks when the family pays off the whole purchase money of the next lighting upgrade, Kenyataa reclaims the loaner lantern and then delivers the brighter lighting system to them. (Outcome: this model significantly improves our Cash-flow front-loading since we always receive and accumulate customers' purchase money before producing & shipping our lighting upgrades). The loaner lantern is then reconditioned for loan-out to another family introduced by the original one, and so on and so forth, a viral marketing that leverages African tribal, close relationships and their spirit of Ubuntu, to organically facilitate more and more virtuous cycles among local, poor villages or communities with little extra advertising and fixed costs.
Savings through loner programs enable poor families to purchase lighting upgrades that are much brighter, cover more rooms, and offer other functions such as home security and cellphone charging. Families' Solar LED payback period from fuel savings is now about three weeks, versus the previous estimated 70-150 days. In sales tests in two Kenyan villages near Kakamega, 60% of the families are joining our program at first encounter, thus significantly enhancing our factories' production forecastablilty. Beyond Solar LED lighting, improved villagers can furthermore purchase Kenyataa's other new products, for example a newly invented inexpensive skylight, water filters, and a hyper-efficient stove fueled by small sticks grown in people’s gardens. These organically virtuous cycles unleash family resources for other needs such as health, education, and social development. Globally, 1.6 billion impoverished people will thus stand to benefit eventually. By combining the strengths of Asia, the West, and the developing world itself, we have achieved a self-funding solution to combat poverty.